A ruling by the Florida Supreme Court could change the game for individuals facing drunk driving charges. For years, Florida defense attorneys in the state have had to deal with potentially unreliable results of breath tests used to convict individuals of DUI. Unfortunately, many, attempting to gain information pertaining to the devices, have encountered road blocks.
However, this may soon change. The Florida Supreme court recently heard arguments relating to the discovery of information pertaining to these alcohol breath tests.
The legal affects of breath alcohol tests in Florida
Breath tests are devices utilized by police officers all across the country to estimate a person's blood alcohol content (BAC). When drivers are pulled over for suspected drunk driving, for example, they are asked to breathe into a device which indirectly detects the BAC through the alcohol detected via their breath. The results of the tests are thereafter used as evidence that they were driving under the influence of alcohol.
Different authorities use different breath test manufacturers. One of the most common breath tests many people have heard of is called the Breathalyzer, a registered trademark brand made by National Draeger. The Intoxilyzer is another well-known brand of breath alcohol tests. It is manufactured by CMI, Inc. and is used by Florida officials.
Regardless of which breath test is utilized, the reliability of these instruments have consistency come under scrutiny.
And because of their questionable trustworthiness, many defense attorneys seek to obtain as much information pertaining to the breath test used against their clients as they can. Typically, information is gathered during the discovery period, the time during a lawsuit where both sides of a lawsuit can seek information from the opposing side to assist with their case.
Problems obtaining information about the Intoxilyzer
However, many defense attorneys in Florida have encountered obstacles when acquiring test manufacturing information from CMI. There seems to be conflicting arguments as to the proper method of obtaining information from the manufacturer.
Defense attorneys claim that only a subpoena given to CMI's registered state agent is only needed to legally obtain information regarding the company's breath test info. However, CMI argues that Florida's Uniform law on securing the attendance of witnesses must be followed. (This law essentially dictates that a Kentucky court has to approve the request before the Florida subpoena can be approved.)
However, defense attorneys disagree and say that Florida's "Uniform Law to Secure the Attendance of Witnesses From Within or Without a State in Criminal Proceedings" only applies to the subpoena of witnesses in a case, not of official documents.
Specifically, the law 942.03(1) "Witness from another state summoned to testify in this state" states that:
"If a person in any state, which by its laws has made provision for commanding persons within its borders to attend and testify in criminal prosecutions...is a material witness in a prosecution pending in a court of record in this state, or in a grand jury investigation...a judge of such court may issue a certificate under the seal of the court stating these facts and specifying the number of days the witness will be required."
Which procedure will the court side with?
So the proper procedure needed in this situation will soon be up for determination by the Florida Supreme Court. Will the court rule that the procedure must be done through a registered Kentucky state agent or through Kentucky court approval?
The decision could really change the procedural way in which defense attorneys build their cases. Currently, many attorneys have been denied access to documents relating to CMI's software when they have gone through the Kentucky courts. In the wake of potential unreliability of the instruments, getting greater access to information to mount a proper defense is vital.